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DECP 05: Developing e-Content

e-Learning in broader way


OLAT falls into the category of Java-based LMS platforms. From a functionality point of view, all today available LMS only differ slightly, like SCORM standard support. However, they noticeably differ when it comes to modularity and flexibility, scalability like clustering support, usability and options for personalization. OLAT is primarily used in the university environment, where adaptation and personalization are important factors. Characteristics of OLAT are the completeness in its native mode, didactical freedom without limitations and the simplicity of personalization for professionals with Java skills. There are two other famous Java-based LMS available today: the open source Sakai project and the commercial software Blackboard which will be compared to OLAT in the following chapter. Main differences between the two:

  • OLAT offers more integrated editors than Moodle: OLAT course editor, HTML editor, IMS QTI editor,
  • IMS Content Package editor
  • The access rules in OLAT are much more fine grained than Moodle and can be applied to every building block in a course and not just to the whole course.
  • The OLAT core offers a lot more tools than the Moodle core (e.g. tunneling, file dialog, theme exchange). Moodle on the other hand offers hundreds of plugins developed by users. But these plugins are mostly untested, unsupported and a usually only run with a specific Moodle version. OLAT, however, integrates new features developed by the community only after a strict review by the core developer team but once a feature/plugin is part of the core it is also tested and supported continuously by the core developers.
  • OLAT offers special “rooms” not affiliated to a course allowing any group of people to collaborate using tools like forum, file sharing, wiki, calendar or e-mail. Giving students the possibility to choose themselves with whom they want to collaborate is a crucial feature in Higher Education.
  • In Moodle an instructor has to add and remove students to groups manually. OLAT additionally offers the possibility that instructors can allow students to enroll themselves into groups.
  • Moodle only allows implementing courses according to three didactical scenarios: by topic, by date or by an activity. The course editor in OLAT on the other hand permits the instructor to construct courses tailored to his particular needs using so called building blocks. Each building block is a tool or function that can be used as often as needed.
  • Moodle only runs on MySQL, OLAT can be used with any database (MySQL, Oracle, Postgres) through the object-relational mapper Hibernate.

E. Usability and marketing studies

The study contains usability and the user-front-end of both Moodle and OLAT are compared. OLAT the user-front-end is much more convincing than in Moodle. There is no hidden structure of activities or documents used within a course; the structure or hierarchy presented corresponds to the hierarchy the instructor chose when setting up the course. Moodle does not fulfill the main principles for usability; its navigation is misleading and confuses the user. The way OLAT presents courses fulfills the demands of usability of websites. Users always know where they are, where they came from, and where they can go. Elements for navigation are always visible at a certain space; users get familiar with the layout very quickly.

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